What I Learned in August…

I am linking up with Emily Freeman’s monthly link-up for the first time today. You can check out all the posts over at Emily’s Place.

Things I learned this month….

(1) Spending time with my sister is the best! Growing up together, we were pretty good at fighting and to be honest, sometimes we still argue with each other. But there is something so incredibly holy about spending quality time together. Our Nashville sister’s trip was AWESOME and is not one I will ever forget. I love my sister so much and the time we spent together is something I will treasure for a very long time. I need to be better about spending time with those I love.

(2) “I am an imperfect person loved by a perfect God!” This image came across my Instagram feed and spoke straight to my heart. I am indeed not perfect…none of us are…but we are loved by a perfect God. We are “fearfully and wonderfully made!”

(3) That twelve years after someone has passed away, my heart still aches so deeply for them. I was cleaning in my guest room when I came across the bookmark of my Grandpa’s obituary. As I read and remembered, the date (August 21) hit me straight in the gut because it was on that date twelve years ago that we celebrated his life at his funeral. Grandpa Sam was such a caring wonderful man. I miss him each and every day.

(4) Sitting on my deck. sipping a Starbucks Refresher, and reading is a place where I truly experience peace and Sabbath. I finally finished “Orphan Train”, started “Searching for Sunday” and have so many wonderful books on my to read list “For the Love” “Wild in the Hollow” etc. Since summer was so busy, I didn’t get to spend time reading on my deck a lot so I have been making up for lost time this week.

(5) Periscope. I recorded my first Periscope video today and have watched several friend’s Periscopes. I have enjoyed listening to and seeing in person the people whose blogs I often read. But I still feel like I have a lot to learn.

(6) VOXER! Can I say more? I love that I can talk to many of my blog friends and hear their voices. I seriously cannot get enough of this app.

(7) It takes a lot of people and work to get a hot air balloon up in the air. Some church members called me a week ago and asked if I wanted to help them launch a hot air balloon and chase after it. This members brother-in-law/uncle owns the hot air balloon. As they sprawled out the balloon and many held on to it, I ran the fan and helped to fill it up with air. We drove around following the balloon so we could be there when it was ready to land.

(8) A community of writers and friends who get my heart and who I feel like I have known forever. I am so blessed that I got to meet several blog friends in real life while my sister were in Nashville. It is hard to put into words how much these people mean to me. My dear friend Karrilee said it best on her blog when she wrote: “You just may find that you have found your people strung across the world wide web and you so connect in heart and spirit that distance doesn’t feel real. Yes. This. Thank You, Internet, for this!” Amen and all the yeses to that!!!

(9) I am so incredibly LOVED! Some days it is so easy to forget that, but God has orchestrated some amazing friendships in my life and family who remind me how loved I am. I’ve been so surprised and humbled by the comments I have received on my last Five Minute Friday post. I love you all so much too! (See also #8)

(10) I love music! Being in Nashville was awesome. I cannot carry a tune for the life of me, but I love listening to new music. In Nashville, we got to hear all sorts of music including one of my all-time faves Vince Gill.

(11) Prayer really does work! Now I have known this before and have prayed many times for others, but I was reminded again of the power of prayer. I shared a prayer request and so many of you responded with your prayers. God heard those prayers and our prayers were answered. So how might I pray for you this week friends? I would love to return the favor.

So, my friends, this is what I learned throughout the month of August. See you in September!

I am linking up with Emily Freeman at Chatting at the Sky, Holly for Testimony Tuesday, and Kelly for the RaRa Linkup.


Blessed To Be A Blessing

I have always loved the story of Abraham and Sarah. Just last night, I found myself reading through the Bible…and I was plopped right down into the story of Lot and Abram. God promised Abram descendants; as many as the stars in the sky. God also promised that Abram would be “blessed to be a blessing.”

Now most of us know the story, Abram and Sarai were blessed with a child. But first not in the way, any of us would expect. Sarah had her servant Hagar submit to Abram. She bore a child. That child was named Ishmael. Abram was eight six years old when Hagar bore Ishmael to Abram.
But then God came and promised Abraham that Sarah would bear him a son. At his old age, Abraham laughed at God’s words to him. Sarah would be quite old when she became pregnant. Can you even imagine? I don’t think I could.but then again, God has the power to do ANYTHING! God provided for them. God gave them exactly what God promised them that God would do.

Abraham was faithful to God. He always trusted that God’s words would come true. Are we faithful like Abraham? Or do we react more like he first did when he heard the news that Sarah would bear him a child? I think more often than we care to admit we laugh like Abraham did. Or we let fear creep in and forget to trust in God and God’s promises for us.

I have been reflecting a lot on how Sarah and Abraham both trusted God. They laughed at first, but then they fulfilled the tasks that God asked them to do. I don’t know about you but I find myself wanting to be more like Abraham…and Sarah.

There are days that I still wonder whether God hears my prayers. But the truth is that I know that God hears them. Yet I still have a hard time trusting in that when the desires of my heart have not yet been met. And in those moments, I really am reminded of Sarah and Abraham.

To be honest, I often see myself in Sarah. I see how she yearned to be a mom and give her husband a child. I too yearn to be a mom and a wife. I see how she trusted in Abraham. I see how she continually and most importantly, trusted in God. I want to trust in God like Sarah and Abraham trusted in God! I may be nearing my 40’s, but that doesn’t mean God won’t still show up for me. God showed up to Sarah when she was much older than I am!

Through it all, Abraham and Sarah counted their blessings and shared those blessings. God calls us to take inventory of our blessings as well. God opens our eyes to see the blessings all around us. As I have finished 1000 Gifts by Ann Voskamp and continued to keep my Sunday Blessings post here on my blog, I have become even more aware of how incredibly blessed I am! Listing my blessings has changed my attitude. Especially knowing that truth, God calls me; calls all of us to follow Sarah and Abraham’s lead to go out into the world to be “blessed to be a blessing.”

Addendum: Tonight I came back from our S’more Summer worship and was scrolling through my Facebook feed. I saw the most amazing thing. My friend E and her hubby lost a child last September. Little did I know that our friend B was a surrogate for them and gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. It is amazing to me how they have been able to keep it a secret on social media etc. My friend B’s actions are so amazing. She is an incredible woman and she said she would do it all over for them. I am so very thankful tonight. What an incredible blessing for my friend E and her hubby M. This story is a wonderful example of what it means to go out into the world to be “blessed to be a blessing.”

Open My Heart

I am linking up for the Five Minute Friday. The FMF is hosted by Kate Motaung on her blog Heading Home. Today’s prompt is “Open.” Write for five minutes; unedited.

For a long time I have asked for God to open my heart to that special person to love. It is a prayer that I continually seem to be lifting up to God in prayer. And I patiently wait for God to hear my prayers. There are days that I wonder if God hears them at all.

This year my oneword365 “brave” is finding its way into my head and my heart in a lot of ways. There have been whispers shared with me through friends gently nudging me to pray about being a foster mom or adopting a child of my own. For a long time, I have felt God’s nudgings but I have felt more roadblocks than open doors. Is God continually nudging me to open my heart and to trust God to hold my heart?

I am not sure what door is opening for me, but what I do know is that I need to trust in God…to trust God to make me brave; to fully give my heart up to God! God has a way of opening our doors, sneaking in, and showing up when we least expect him.

As my heart waits to be opened for that special someone to love, I am choosing to be brave. I want to be a woman who is brave and doesn’t tiptoe around fear. In the words of Renee Swope’s, “I want to be a woman overcomes obstacles by tackling them in faith instead of tiptoeing around them in fear.”

Praying for God to continually open my heart!

Yes, No or Wait!!

Jesus will hold your heart.

These words shared with me by my friend DB are echoing in my heart, head and mind as I wonder what God is calling me to.

Am I going to meet my Mr. Right? Am I suppose to adopt?
Or do foster care?

Really I have more questions than answers these days.

I know that God hears my every prayer. But as a friend reminded me, God often says Yes, No or Wait!!

What, wait? God doesn’t always give an answer all the time. I know that but sometimes that is so hard to hear especially when you are waiting for God to answer your prayer. I want an answer other than simply wait.

Forgive Us Our Sins As We Forgive Those…

I am participating in this month’s synchroblog (a blog where numerous bloggers blog on the same topic) which can be found at http://synchroblog.wordpress.com. This month’s synchroblog topic is posing this question: “What would it look like for the Church as a whole when abusive leaders are held accountable and then are reconciled? How do we do that in such a way as to let victims be heard and redemption be the end goal. What does redemption and/or reconciliation look like in real life? What does grace look like in these situations?”

“Pray then in this way: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, as earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not bring us to the time of trial but rescue us from the evil one. If you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”–Matthew 6:9-15

“Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Or in another version, “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.” How often do we go through the motions of reciting these words from the Lord’s Prayer without truly thinking about what they mean? How can we forgive those who have hurt us…especially if those we need to forgive are those who are leaders in our lives and who we have trusted?

I have been extremely lucky in my life to have leaders who have been wonderful leaders. Yet that is not always the case. In fact, several years ago, the synod I was serving in had an unfortunate situation happen. A member of the synod staff had been embezzling money from the organization. I’ll admit that many of us were hurt and had (still have) a hard time forgiving this man. However I am reminded of a story where neighbors of this man and his wife invited them over for supper. What a powerful witness of forgiveness and grace! The neighbors wanted him and his wife to know that it was about the act and not them as human beings.

The truth is that we are all created as saints and sinners. We all sin and fall short of the glory of God. Yet God promises that God will forgive us of our sins if we confess our sins. I am reminded of these words from 1 John 1:9-10; “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.”

As I think about all who have been hurt and experienced brokenness by a leader in the church, I find them (actually all of us;sinners)being convicted in the words we hear in verse ten. The Message translation captures 1 John 1:9-10 so well. “If we claim that we’re free of sin, we’re only fooling ourselves. A claim like that is errant nonsense. On the other hand, if we admit our sins–make a clean breast of them–he won’t let us down; he’ll be true to himself. He’ll forgive our sins purge us of all wrongdoing. If we claim that we’ve never sinned, we out-and-out contradict God—make a liar out of him. A claim like that only shows off our ignorance of God.”

The reality is that all of us including leaders in the church are sinful beings. We all make mistakes. Forgiveness and grace are marvelous gifts, yet I don’t believe God is telling us to forget the sin. In fact, I think God calls all of us to seek the help, counsel and forgiveness that we need. This is shown to us through this wonderful humble servant leader God’s son Jesus Christ. Jesus was not afraid to sit with tax collectors and sinners. Jesus wasn’t afraid to pick up basin and towel and wash the feet of all God’s people even those who would later deny him and betray him. Jesus’ example of humble servanthood is the ultimate example of God’s grace. And by the humble example of Jesus, we all especially leaders in the church are called to embody a life of humble servanthood too.

“So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!”–2 Corinthians 5:17 (NRSV)

 “Because of the sacrifice of the Messiah, his blood poured out on the altar of the Cross, we’re a free people–free of penalties and punishments chalked up by all our misdeeds. And not just barely free, either. Abundantly free!!”–Ephesians 1:7 (The Message)

**Please note these are my own views and are not necessarily the views of my church.

Read other SynchoBlog posts here:

  • Justin Steckbauer – The Servant Leader: A Radical Concept
  • Mary – Can I Get A Doctor?
  • Glenn Hager – The Man Of God Myth
  • Lisa – Forgive
  • Jeremy Myers – Reconciling Mark Driscoll
  • Peggy Brown – Abi and November’s Synchroblog: Spiritual Abuse and Redemption
  • Edwin Pastor FedEx Aldrich – Shooting Stars: Of Scandal, Abuse, Restoration, and Systematic Failures
  • Liz Dyer – Sorry

    A Broken Heart

    “For I am sure that neither death nor life…nor anything else…will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus”

    I read these words and I know that they are true. Yet at times like this when we hear of another school shooting, I find myself having a hard time trusting in them. Why do some feel the need to resort to violence and death? During times like this, people often ask where was God? I believe God was in the school with those children. However I know that that is not easy to trust in.

    Yesterday as I heard the news of another school shooting, my heart was breaking…and still is breaking. And I am also a little angry. I am angry that our kids cannot go to school and be safe. I am angry that so many are so overcome by darkness that they cannot help but make bad choices. (And yet I am also thankful for those that have gotten and continue to receive the treatment they need!) I am angry that there is such a stigma that so many don’t understand the illness. I am angry yet my anger is overcome by the tears streaming down my face; tears for what my mom has taught me about showing love, tears for all the lives lost in school shootings, tears for the conversations that need to take place in a scared scarred world.

    I want our world to be a better place. Once I find my Mr. Right and I have a family, I don’t want to have to worry about sending my children to school. I want more hope and not fear. I want there to be more love and not so much hate. A friend of mine posted several questions on her FB feed a year again after another school shooting and I cannot shake them. Her questions are in no way rhetorical. They need to be answered. And I find myself clinging to those questions again today. She writes, “We have too many hurting youth, too many kids who don’t have hope, too many kids who don’t feel loved. What are we going to do about this as the people of God? How are we going to speak light into this darkness and hope into despair? How will we show love to all people today?”

    Yes, my dear readers and friends, how are we going to show light in the midst of this darkness and hope in the midst of this despair? How are we going to show love to God’s people today? In the midst of the darkness, I cling to this precious one who was born in a manger in Bethlehem; the one who comes as the light in the midst of darkness, the hope in the midst of despair, and so much more. How do we help show that kind of love to those who are hurting, to those who don’t know love?

    I am reminded of my dear mother who has lived most of my life with a mental illness, yet she is one of the most faith-filled women I know. I swear she would give the shirt off her back. She simply loves unconditionally. She has been an amazing model of God’s love for me and I am so grateful and thankful for that. But I find myself wondering where are those examples for those youth who are hurting and don’t feel loved? How do we show them that they are loved? How do we show them that there is hope in the world? I don’t know the answers, yet I want the answers! And I want those answers sooner rather than later. I want the answer not to be violence. I want the answer to be kindness and love and grace. I want….

    Today I am praying for this one in Marysville who thought their only answer was violence. Today I am praying for Eric and Dylan who walked into Columbine. Today I am praying for all those who lost a child almost two years ago at Sandy Hook. Today I am praying for Adam who felt his only answer was to walk into that school two years ago. Today I am praying for all those youth who don’t feel loved and who are hurting. Today I am praying that we will be able to answer these questions that my friend posted. Today my prayer is simply…come, Holy Spirit, come…help us to show them light and love and hope!

    Disclaimer: All religious views expressed on this blog are my own
    views and are not necessarily the views of my church as a whole.

    God Is Holding You!

    First off, I want to begin by saying “Thank You” to all of you who prayed for my friend Karen and her family who I wrote about in my Day Six post. Karen died peacefully yesterday. Please continue to pray for Karen’s family and friends as they grieve her loss. “Whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lords”

    Secondly, I opened up my Timehop this morning and came across a video my dear friend Sarah shared with me when I was going through a difficult time in my life with my mom and the illness. I decided to click on the video link again this morning. These words are so powerful and I hear them speaking to so many of you who are struggling. The video is called “Arms that Hold the Universe/Promise of A Lifetime.”  This verse from the song really caught me this morning: “I know it seems that this could be the darkest day you’ve known, but believe you me the God of strength will never let you go” as well as this verse: “The Arms that hold the Universe are holding you tonight.”

    Yep, my dear friends and readers, God is holding you today…holding you in the midst of your joy, but especially in the midst of your sorrow. God is holding you in the midst of the light, but most especially in the midst of the darkness. And when it seems your world is falling apart, God is holding you most especially there too!!! “I know it seems that this could be the darkest day you’ve known, but believe you me, the God of strength will never let you go!”

    I think I will leave it at that for today. Have a blessed Sunday friends!!


    Teach Us To Pray

    During my seminary days, one of the classes I took was on “Loss and Grief.” For the class, we had to write a paper on loss and grief. I chose to write my paper on the “loss and grief associated with mental illness.” In my research, I came across a book that talked about how many churchs have so many board and care facilities for those who daily live and struggle with mental illness in the “shadows of their steeples.” That phrase has stuck with me over the years. What if we did a better job of caring for and even praying for these individuals?

    In my own experience, I have seen the power of prayer at work. So much so, that my Lenten practice the last several years has been to pray through my Facebook friends list for Lent. Prayer is a powerful gift! I am reminded of one of my favorite Bible verses from the book of Philippians. “Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God (Philippians 4:6).”

    Growing up, prayer was important to me but it truly wasn’t until I graduated high school and went to work at SuperAwesomeBibleCamp that I realized how essential and vital it was to my life. It also was this holy place where I discovered that writing poetry was, for me, a form of prayer. (I have always been a writer but it was here that it took on a new meaning and purpose for me!).

    In February of 2001, Mom had a huge setback. Her lithium (a drug she takes for her illness) level got too high which caused her kidneys to shut down. (And if you remember from the last two posts, she has lived in a assisted living/nursing home since then). I was sitting in my dorm room when I received a phone call from the hospital at about 10 pm. I knew that it couldn’t be good news because it was after ten pm. They proceeded to tell me that mom was in ICU. After I hung up the phone, I went downstairs and sent a prayer request email to family and friends asking them to pray. I knew that I could count on them to pray for Mom and my family. I wasn’t in my room but a few minutes, when my dear friend BD (or as I like to affectionately call him “the little brother I always wanted”) called me. He prayed with me on the phone and even had me laughing a little by the end of the call. A holy prayer moment I will never forget.

    Mom has been quite healthy for awhile, but I always find myself praying for her happiness, her wholeness, and so much more. This past August, I found myself turning to my “prayer warrior friends (a group of three dear friends plus me). I received a phone call saying Mom just wasn’t herself. They ended up bringing her to the town where I live. I met them at the ER and I asked my friends if someone could come with me. I have spent sometime in the hospital with mom over the years, but I still don’t feel the most comfortable going there by myself. My friend E was able to come with me. My friend E sat with me in the emergency room and prayed with Mom and I. Even as she was admitted, I found myself clinging to the prayer “The Lord’s Prayer” we said together that evening. It was hard to see Mom sick because she hadn’t been in the hospital for so long (at least 5 years). Now Mom is home and doing so very well. But it was those “prayer warrior friends” prayers that got us through that night and the next week. Another holy prayer moment that I won’t soon forget!

    As the daughter of someone who daily struggles with a mental illness, I appreciate and acknowledge how important prayer is, but I also know how important it is to seek proper medical care. Yet prayer is a gift that can bring hope to those who daily struggle with mental health issues. As my friend  and I sat in the emergency room with Mom and prayed the words to the Lord’s Prayer, I could see that those words were bringing comfort to her.

    “Our Father..who art in heaven…hallowed by thy name…thy kingdom come…thy will be done….on Earth as it is in heaven…give us this day our daily bread…and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us…lead us not into temptation….but deliver us from evil….for thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory for ever and ever. Amen!”


    The “Holy Space” of Prayer

    Prayer is a pretty incredible gift! The last several years for a Lenten practice instead of giving something up, I have decided to take something on. Now I realize that I pray every day…or at least I try to….but often the days have gotten long and I find myself quickly getting the words out. But every Lent for the last two-three years as I have prayed through my friends list, I have realized how focused it makes me and how incredibly powerful it can be to pray for others in my life. It truly reminds me of the communion of saints gathered here and around the world!

    There is something incredibly awesome and holy about being let into that “holy space.” I have been asked to pray for friends who have family members suffering an illness. I have been asked to pray for friends as they have tried to start their own families. I have been asked to simply enter into these “holy spaces” and to pray for my friends and family. I hold each prayer with delicateness and pure grace as I lift each one of them before God. “Let my prayers rise up like incense…”

    And by entering into these “holy spaces,” I have watched as God has answered these prayers. God hasn’t always answered them in the time or the places that I have prayed for or that my friends and family have specifically asked for but I truly believe God has heard my prayers and hears all of our prayers. I have rejoiced with friends as they have finally been able to take their child home with them. I have mourned with friends as someone they have loved is no longer suffering and no longer in pain but has left this Earth. I have found peace in the midst of a friends troubled relationship because they have finally found peace.

    Prayer has taught me so much about what it means to trust in this One who calls and claims each and every one of us as God’s children. God promises that God will never leave us or forsake us. I realize that isn’t easy to trust in because life happens but the promise is that God will always be with us. And because God is always with us, we can ALWAYS turn to him in prayer. I’ll admit there are days when I want to be selfish and pray for myself…pray for silly things. Yes, there are times when I truly do need to turn to God in prayer for healing, for wholeness, for peace for myself but the gift is when I let go and pray for those around me, I begin to see God answering prayers that I have repeatedly said to God for myself.

    In praying for others, I have been asked several times by my friends how they can pray for me? I know that there is a whole community of faith in Dilworth, MN who hold me in their hearts and pray for me to find my Mr. Right, to start a family, etc. I know that there is a community of Diaconal Ministry colleagues who daily pray for me. I also know that there is a community of faith right here in Minot ND who daily pray for me too. And there are people scattered throughout the United States and even around the world who know my heart and soul and continually pray for my prayers to be answered. And knowing that is enough!

    “Ask, and it will be given you; search and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks the door will be opened (Matthew 7:7-8).”

    Praying and Being Prayed For…

    During the season of Lent the last several years I have found myself asking friends if they have any prayer requests. So I spend the season of Lent praying through my friend’s list. There is something so incredibly holy about praying for my friends and family. It is always so incredible to look at their prayer requests a year later and seeing those requests answered.

    I love praying for my friends and family! I know that God doesn’t always answer the way they may want or expect, but if I can do something for them by praying, then that is exactly what I will do. And I know that my friends and family have and would return the favor for me. My friends have prayed for my family when someone has been sick or battling an illness. And my friends have prayed for so much more too.

    This afternoon I headed over to the church for a 90th Birthday Open House.When I got to church, I was stopped by several of our church members because they know tomorrow is my last day at DLC and some of them are not able to come tomorrow. What has struck me today especially is the prayers that so many are lifting up for me right now. One of my dear ladies from church shared that she has been praying for me to find my Mr. Right. I simply said that it is something that I have wanted for a long time. And she replied that she knew that and that was why she was praying. She also shared that she wants me to have that because it is so great. Later another one of my ladies shared that she thought there were many who were praying that prayer for me.

    I trust that God has heard my prayers…the many prayers I have prayed for that same thing. But I also trust that God hears their prayers as well. I know it will happen in God’s timing and not mine but sometimes that is so much easier said than done. Yet I know that prayer is so incredibly humbling especially when others are praying for me. I am reminded of some words from one of my favorite liturgies Marty Haugen’s Holden Evening prayer where his words capture the simplicity and beauty of prayer: “Our prayers rise up like incense”

    Tonight I will say my prayers, lay my head on my pillow and trust in the prayers that are rising like incense for me this night as well.